Repainting the break room

So there’s this hospital in Clermont-Ferrand with a mural of what looks like a gang-rape…

A fresco depicting four superheroes committing what has been interpreted as a gang rape is currently the subject of a huge scandal in France. The mural—which is painted on the wall of a hospital in Clermont-Ferrand—depicts Wonder Woman having anal sex with Batman while Superman comes in her mouth. Supergirl is there, fisting, and the Flash is getting a handjob. It’s causing its fair share of controversy in a country still dealing with the emotional fallout of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

The outrage kicked off on Saturday, when the Facebook page Les médecins ne sont pas des pigeons (“Doctors aren’t dupes”) published a photo of the fresco. The mural was first created 14 years ago (according to a comment on the page), but a recent addition has turned it from a mere rape mural into an overtly political rape mural.

Here’s the story complete with the mural in question, now that you’ve been warned about the content. NSFW if others can see your screen.

These speech bubbles—it’s unclear whether they were added in Photoshop or if someone actually painted them on the wall—read, “Take it deep,” “Take that health reform,” and “You should inform yourself a bit better!” They’re thought to be intended as an attack on the reforms proposed by the French Health Minister Marisol Touraine last November. Those reforms—which proposed to clamp down on doctors charging over the odds for consultations by outsourcing the payment to health insurance companies—were rejected by the French National Medical Council (CNOM) on the grounds that they “didn’t answer the needs of doctors on the ground, and of the patients.”

Fans on the Facebook page have been defending the fresco by referring to the recentCharlie Hebdo case and to the principle of “freedom of expression,” with many suggesting it was hypocritical to say the Prophet Muhammed could be depicted in cartoon form but that you shouldn’t create an image implying the rape of the health minister.

The two are not comparable.

Anyway…is this normal for French doctors? Porn murals in their break room?

The French feminist association Osez le Féminisme (“Dare Feminism”) was quick to react to the Facebook post, publishing an article on its website asking for the fresco to be erased and for measures to be taken against the authors. The post also called the mural “misogynistic” and said that it wrongly used “rape as a means of showing discontent towards a Minister and her law.” It warned that such representations could “eroticize extreme violence” and contribute to building a “degrading image of women.”

Yes, they could, in fact it would be odd if they didn’t.


  1. says

    According to the comments– which are also inordinately concerned with debating whether the image depicts a rape or an orgy, as if it really matters– the mural was painted on the wall of a residence hall for French medical students.

    Which makes it a little more understandable. No less fucked up, however.

  2. karmacat says

    Wow. I’m speechless. People didn’t have to look at Charlie Hebdo if they didn’t want to. With this mural, people don’t have a choice to not look at it. People who try to say this is free speech forget that free speech doesn’t mean everybody has to listen to you.

  3. says

    Cue the “Oh, you Americans are too uptight!” posts from someone. Of course we all know a painting like that depicting say the Flash in place of Wonder Woman would have lasted about 5 minutes in that location.

    As for the comments to that Vice article, since when has gang bang not been a synonym for rape?

  4. says

    Porn on display in a shared space? Especially the workplace?
    Double NOPE.
    I’m willing to grant that each person’s tastes are their own. But some things… some things you just don’t share or show in public. Especially if it’s something rapey, like that “mural”.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    From the linked article:

    The post was painted over early on Monday and Clermont-Ferrand announced it had decided to “erase the wall painting” and take “disciplinary, or even judiciary action against the presumed authors for their unacceptable behavior.”

    A second photo shows three people in scrubs beginning to paint over the mural – which does not, fwiw, include the speech bubbles (actually, boxes) shown in the first picture, which ought to settle the “photoshop” question – except for the “who” and why parts…

  6. Sili says

    Looks like an orgy to me before the speechbubbles.

    But even then not exactly appropriate for a public space, no.

  7. says

    An orgy defined by whom? There’s nothing that looks sexually pleasurable for women there. I get that that’s the nature of porn, but I don’t understand why. Then again maybe I’ve been confused all along in thinking orgy implied pleasure for all concerned.

  8. says

    Cue the “Oh, you Americans are too uptight!”

    Yeah, that’s the same response we tend to get whenever we complain about Roman Polanski getting away with drugging, raping and sodomizing a teen-age girl. (Remind me again which country gave him shelter without a trace of shame?)

    Others blamed the Facebook group for publishing the image, saying that such frescoes are “part of our [medical students] traditions and had never caused problems before.”

    That mural was up on a wall for FOURTEEN YEARS without complaint? There’s no valid excuse for that, “tradition” or no “tradition.” That sort of “art” or “humor” or “expression” or whatever they want to call it, is perfectly appropriate for a magazine or adults-only Web page — but not on any wall of any building.

  9. says


    I think I can sort of understand it, in people who deal with bodies all day – both getting jaded about bodies, and wanting some comic / ribald / Dionysian relief. All those pictures are at least fun and mutual – they’re not gang rapey. That one in Clermont-Ferrand looked neither fun nor mutual to me.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    @RagingBee, 12:

    That mural was up on a wall for FOURTEEN YEARS without complaint? There’s no valid excuse for that

    There’d be no valid excuse for it still being up fourteen years after a complaint. There’d be no valid excuse for it still being up fourteen DAYS after a complaint.

    But I fail to see why anyone involved needs an “excuse” for why it was up for fourteen years WITHOUT COMPLAINT. If you accept that there weren’t any complaints – and you explicitly do – what is there to excuse? Are the management supposed to be fucking clairvoyant or something?

    And repeatedly the condemnation here is “that doesn’t look consensual/like fun/pleasurable to women to me”. To which the only sensible response is “Well… OK.” A lot of porn – I’d say the majority – doesn’t look like my idea of fun for the men involved – indeed, nothing about that mural appeals. I’m baffled why anyone would think their opinion any more important on that matter than anyone else’s, though. Especially as this wasn’t on public view and we seem to have established it’s been there over a decade without any apparent problem.

  11. says

    Oh don’t be so dense. Think about it.

    Suppose there were far more male med students than female. Suppose that made complaining difficult.

    Or suppose the mural portrayed slaves on an auction block, or Jews in a cattle car.

    Or suppose that mural appeared on the wall of an office or factory.

    Come on – there are things the people in charge shouldn’t need to be told do not belong in the workplace.

  12. Ben Finney says

    If you accept that there weren’t any complaints – and you explicitly do – what is there to excuse?

    This is the same defense used by people who act completely surprised when yet another courtroom is found to have exclusive Christian symbolism in it. Oh, no-one complained so far, so why would you expect anyone to have done anything about it?!

    It’s bullshit for the same reason: The fact that such depictions express the attitude that some people are deserving of unequal treatment by the institution.

    No complaint is needed for the institution’s management to know that this depiction expresses that attitude to anyone who comes in. They are responsible for getting rid of it, even if no-one complains.

    Are the management supposed to be fucking clairvoyant or something?

    They’re supposed to treat everyone equally no matter their religion, sex, ethnicity, etc. That extends to *expressing* that, and removing expressions that say otherwise.

    This is true whether we’re talking about an expression like a Ten Commandments monument which expresses that Abrahamic-religion-followers will be treated specially well, or a huge mural expressing that women are sex objects.

    We don’t need anyone to complain about the expression for the management to know this. They should show they’re part of a progressive society and remove these harmful displays before any complaint.

  13. dshetty says

    Ah I now see why butterflies and wheels kept getting blocked on my office network as “sex”


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